The Dance of Life Ryan A. Church
Combining Efforts: Generation, Storage and Distribution In February 2020 , the RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics  in Japan combined PV devices and electrochemical cells to design a plant-inspired system that consisted of: • A photovoltaic power-generating device • An electrochemical unit converting electric power into chemical energy • Storage of hydrogen, and, • Polymer electrolyte cells converting hydrogen back to electricity to meet demands on site. In 2015, this group reached the highest solarto-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 24.4%. This is an impressive achievement, especially noting the efficiency of photosynthesis at around 1%. This shows that harnessing multiple biomimetic principles can improve efficiency in man-made systems.
Conclusion The current technological landscape is bound to see a push for clean technologies as we enter into the 2020s. Emulating natural models of energy generation and storage ‘to the last detail’ can be misguided. What is more practical and fruitful for energy researchers and technologists is to
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understand the underlying mechanisms at play, and emulate these pieces of biological wisdom. Nature does not separate energy storage from generation, so the study of one should lead to the other, and vice-versa. A systems level approach is likely to be more beneficial in future research. Emulating the chemistry of chemical bond formation and decomposition strategies in photosynthesis and polysaccharide formation appears to be a very fruitful area for exploration, especially in chemical energy storage to electricity. Utilizing nature’s recipes that revolve around CHONPS will increase compatibility with the nature world. Major barriers for technologies that involve catalysts have always been decomposition of these molecules over time – this will continue to be a major area of focus, as this underlies a number of issues with commercializing battery technology and energy production. Non-immobilized EFCs could be a promising field in this respect. It is unlikely we will find a one-size fits all model, or one ‘ultimate enzyme’ of the future, but if we pick the right combination of approaches, green chemistry can inform the green revolution. ⊗ We would appreciate your feedback on this article: